“I THOUGHT WE were dead.” Emmanuel Bamfo, the boss of Globe, a six-person startup founded a year ago, began thinking about what job to do next when the coronavirus hit in March. His firm acted like a short-term Airbnb: its app let people rent out their homes or even only parts of them, such as the bedroom or the bathroom, for a few hours. This became an unattractive proposition during a pandemic.
Mr Bamfo quickly adapted his service instead. Now the app’s users can buy time in empty flats that would in normal circumstances be rented out for longer periods on other sites. It costs between $25 and $125 an hour to rent a flat in San Francisco, offering an escape for those who want to work for a while without children underfoot or need a change of scenery. Demand appears high, though supply less so. The company’s app shows a worldwide waiting list of more than 113,000 (the firm needs to check potential renters’ identities) and it claims to have 10,000 hosts.
Globe’s ultimate success remains uncertain. Officials in San Francisco wrote to the company pointing out that its service violates the city’s shelter-in-place order. But Globe’s early achievements after adapting show that predictions of a covid-induced demise for the “sharing economy” may turn out to be exaggerated. Rather than putting an end to it, the virus is forcing...
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